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Establishment a welcomed addition

Proposed hotel next step in railroad housing evolution

— Times change even in South Routt.

Before phone lines were strung in the railroad community of Phippsburgh, a messenger boy referred to as a “call boy,” was hired to bang on the doors at the “beaneries” that housed railroad employees to let them know that the train had arrived and it was time to go to work.

Union Pacific employee Paul Bonnifield said through the nearly 100 years of railroading history in Phippsburg, railroad workers stayed in “beaneries,” which were bunk houses that served dinner that consisted mainly of, as the name implies, beans.



Other railroad workers stayed in boxcars that were placed on parcels of land and made into make-shift apartments.

With the advent of telephone lines, the call boy stopped banging on doors and began making wake-up calls.



Today in South Routt, Union Pacific has a “call girl,” who pages railroaders when its time to work, Bonnifield said.

But coming soon, the call girl will be paging railroaders staying at a new hotel in Yampa.

Union Pacific has contracted Lodging Enterprise Inc. to build a 39-room hotel on Moffat Avenue in Yampa called the Oak Tree Inn and a 24-hour restaurant called Penny’s Diner.

The primary purpose of the new establishments will be to house and feed railroaders mainly engine crews from Denver and Grand Junction, said Bill Burgess, owner of Lodging Enterprise Inc.

However, it won’t be exclusive to railroad workers.

“We are not just building a dormitory for them (Union Pacific). We are building a hotel and diner that will be open to the public,” Burgess said.

The Golden Spike in Phippsburg has housed the majority of the workers for a number of years.

“They are pretty much shot,” Bonnifield said of the rooms.

Burgess, who has built many hotels for Union Pacific, found the land in Yampa early in the year and said he thinks the spot is a the perfect place for a hotel and diner. Work began at the site on Moffat Avenue this spring by Premier Quality Builders from Mesa, Ariz.

When finished, which would be around November, between 18 and 24 full-time positions will be available at the hotel and diner, Burgess said.

“It just depends on how many full-time and part-time employees we find and how busy the restaurant is,” he said.

One person within Burgess’ company has asked to be transferred to Yampa to work in the hotel. But the rest of the positions should be open to Routt County residents, Burgess said.

“We plan to hire everyone locally,” he said.

The diner is a ’50s-style restaurant and will be open 24 hours a day. The restaurants usually are adorned with a retro-style stainless steel exterior.

“In Yampa, we decided to do something different with the siding to keep in style with the Western town,” Burgess said.

The restaurant is named after Bill Burgess’ wife, Penny. Penny is a writer and has published a fictional book called “Penny’s Diner Love Stories.” The book is a collection of three loves stories where each couple meets and falls in love at a Penny’s Diner.

There are 11 Penny’s Diners across the country and they specialize in burgers and malts, Burgess said.

Margi Mach, manager of Antlers Cafe and Bar in Yampa, said the new neighbors are welcomed, even though the diner will be in direct competition with Antlers.

“I say the more the merrier,” she said. “I think any new building is welcomed.”

Because there aren’t many restaurants in Yampa, Mach said Penny’s Diner won’t cut down on business that much. Plus, the additional railroad workers in town will eventually make their way into the Antlers to eat.

Ken Montgomery, owner of Montgomery General Store in Yampa, said the hotel and diner could have a positive affect on his business.

“It could help some, probably,” Montgomery said. “Basically, the guys will come over and look around and kill some time while waiting for their train.”

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@steamboatpilot.com.


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